Wire Shelving Made Easier


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wire shelves

Wire shelving has remained popular because of its price, flexibility and ease of installation. Wire shelving can be designed to meet almost any need at a fraction of the cost of a custom built-in system. And while installing wire shelving isn’t quite a no-brainer, you don’t need to be a master carpenter or own a fully equipped cabinet shop to get it done. We picked the brain of a pro for these tips to help you on your next installation.

Buy extra pieces

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Buy extra pieces


Even if you’re just planning to build one closet shelf, have extra parts on hand. It takes a lot less time to return a few wall clips than it does to stop working to make a special trip to the store for just one. And plans change, so if you or your customer decides to add a section of shelving, you’ll be prepared.

Leave the heavy stufff

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Leave the heavy stuff for the garage

Our expert primarily works with Closet Maid’s standard wire shelving, sold at home centers. Most manufacturers make a heavier-duty product for garage storage, but the regular stuff is plenty strong for the average bedroom or hall closet. However, if your customer’s closet is going to store a bowling ball collection, you may want to consider upgrading. The materials for the closet shown here (approximately 22 ft. of shelving and rod) cost about $150.

Bubble stick

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Lay it out with a bubble stick

Our expert uses a bubble stick rather than a level. A bubble stick is like a ruler and a level rolled into one. Holding a level against the wall with one hand can be frustrating. Levels are rigid, and they pivot out of place when resting on a stud that’s bowed out a bit. A bubble stick has a little flex, so it can ride the imperfections of the wall yet still deliver a straight line. Bubble sticks are available online.

Avoid upheaval

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Avoid upheaval

Back wall clips are designed to support the shelf, but if there are a bunch of clothes hanging on the front of the shelf with nothing on top to weigh them down, the back of the shelf can lift. To keep the shelf in place, Tim installs a retaining clip in a stud near the middle of the shelf. One clip toward the middle of an 8-ft. shelf is plenty

Bolt cutters work

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A bolt cutter works best

Cut your shelving with a bolt cutter. It’s quick and easy, and it makes a clean cut. To make room for the cutter, Use your feet to hold the shelving off the ground.

Space the angle brackets equally

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Space the angle brackets evenly

Consider aesthetics when installing his angle brackets. If a shelf only needs one bracket, find the stud closest to the center. If two or three brackets are required, try to space them evenly, making sure that at least one bracket toward the center is hitting a stud.

Measure an inch short
Measure an inch short

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When cutting the shelf, measure wall to wall, and subtract an inch. This allows for the thickness of the end brackets plus a little wiggle room. It’s the top, thinner wire that actually supports the shelf, and one wire per end is enough. Cutting exact lengths will only earn you wall scratches and a trip back to the cutting station.

Pegboard prevents tipping

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Pegboard prevents tipping

When Tim installs wire shelving in pantries, he likes to cap the top of the shelves with white 1/4-in. pegboard. This stops the skinnier items from tipping over. He uses white zip ties to hold the pegboard in place. A 4 x 8-ft. sheet costs less than $20 at most home centers, which makes it an inexpensive option.

Hanger sliding freedom

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Hanger sliding freedom

One common complaint about wire shelving is that it restricts the movement of the hangers because the hangers are stuck between the shelves. That’s why this pro always offers the upgrade of a hanger rod. Most manufacturers make some version of one. A hanger rod allows clothes to be slid from one end of the closet to the other, even past an inside corner. This upgrade will add about 30 percent to the cost of the materials on a standard shelf design. Make sure the type of shelving you buy will work with the hanging rod hardware you plan to use.

Wire Shelving

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Meet the pro

Over the past 20 years, Tim Bischke has hung wire shelves in thousands of closets. His jobs have ranged from simple one-shelf reach-in closets to elaborate walk-in wardrobe sanctuaries.


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